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The diabetes cancer connection? Research directions: part 3 of 3 with Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN

Research directions—part 3 of 3: The diabetes cancer connection

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN has been the Nutrition Advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research over 25 years. We discussed new research directions and the nutrition/cancer connection. The first interview focused on some myths and known causes of cancer. We then had a 3-part series about new research directions—this is the third of three. To read transcript click continue reading after video.

Neily: We have been talking about emerging directions in cancer prevention and the third one is ….
Karen: To recognize that there is a connection between type 2 diabetes, and cancer risk.  People with type 2 diabetes are actually at an increased risk of several different kinds of cancer and so it’s really important for them to recognize that when they get better control of their blood sugars, there are many different important benefits that they are achieving and one of those is to decrease the risk of cancer that they are otherwise facing.
Neily: So, a lot of people that have diabetes develop it because of insulin resistance as a result of weight—type 2 diabetes is what we are talking about.  How much is that weight connection there?
Karen: It seems to be  a significant part of that especially for cancers like endometriol cancer and postmenopausal breast cancer. Excess body fat is the primary source of estrogen production after menopause, so the more body fat you have,  the higher your levels of estrogen which could promote those cancers. But in all the cases of cancer that are tied to type 2 diabetes, the insulin resistance piece seems to be significant. When we eat a diet that can help in bringing insulin levels down and we can drop even 5 – 7% of weight has been shown in diabetes studies to drop insulin levels. We would believe that would then mean less of these high levels of insulin that are promoting cancer cell development and when you get regular exercise we know that that reduces insulin resistance so people see better blood sugar control. But by dropping insulin levels we’re also having less of this cancer promoting link.
Neily: So, somebody that has diabetes to decrease their risk of developing cancer what would be, you know, critical things that need to do? Good  blood sugar control?
Karen: Good blood sugar control, but the thing is that the link with cancer risk seems to be so strong with inflammation and insulin resistance that how you achieve that blood control may be important and so if you, as much as you can adopt a healthy lifestyle that by just a modest weight loss which tends to bring insulin levels down, a healthy diet that focuses on plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans providing antioxidants that can help decrease inflammation. When you get regular exercise all of these things are helping reduce blood sugar but also promoting an overall healthier environment within the body.
Neily: Great.  Thanks so much Karen. Again Karen Collins, American Institute for Cancer Research (


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